September is the month when our Peninsular Malaysia clergy – Cardinal, bishops, priests and deacons – go on their annual spiritual retreat. The retreat will be held every week in several places for six days, starting Sunday evening till Saturday morning. There are three retreat-center locations: Cameron Highlands (1st week and 4th week), Penang Island (2nd week) and Plentong, Johor (3rd week).
We, the clergy during this period, will take time off from all our parish pastoral commitments in order to fully participate in this spiritual retreat. We listen to talks in the mornings and afternoons, given by invited speakers, who are usually a bishop or priest from overseas, before entering into silent prayer, reflection and mediation sessions for our personal renewal. We hope and pray that God’s will is fulfilled in every way for each of us, and that at the end of the retreat, our spirits will be restored and renewed.
Starting this weekend, there will be three long-weekends consecutively, with four public holidays therein – Merdeka Day (31 August), Awal Muharram (1 September), birthday of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (8 September) and Malaysia Day (16 September). During these long weekends, you may take the opportunity to go on vacation or visit your hometown. By now you would have planned your trip, but I would like to remind you that wherever you go, do not forget to fulfill your Sunday obligation by attending Mass. Check the respective websites or the Catholic directory for the closest church and for their Mass timings.
In connection with these holidays, there will be no Catechism classes for three Sundays (September 1, 8 and 16) and our children will miss out at least 5-6 hours of catechism lessons. If possible, I would like to encourage parents to spend some time with your children on these Sundays, to pray with them and teach them about our faith. Parents and godparents should also spend some time going through the catechism textbooks with their child.
As parents, one of the graces that the Sacrament of Marriage requires is educating your children about our faith in Christ and the Church. While the parents are preparing their child to be Baptised, the Church gives them the Infant Baptism Instruction, to make parents and godparents aware of their roles and responsibilities. It states there: “You have asked to have your child Baptised. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him/her in the practice of the faith. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” Then, the Church asks the godparents if they too are “ready to help the parents in their duty as Christian parents?”
Parents and godparents must make a constant effort in bringing up their children in the faith of the Church, as the children also play an active role in practicing their faith. The Church expects parents and godparents to be the best faith educators by bearing witness to the faith in whatever they do or say. Parents must remember that faith education is just as important as secular education.
Parents and godparents are the first teachers of faith education of their children. When they pass on their faith, it impacts the lives of their children, as they learn best through example and practice and the Church expects parents and godparents to be the best faith teachers through their words and deeds. As faith educators, you must always endeavor to learn more about your faith and pass on what you have learnt or received to your children. Your knowledge, attitude, roles and responsibilities will help in your child’s faith development. Walk with your child, talk to your child and know and love them.
Rev. Fr. George P.